Experiences during early development can influence neuronal functions and modulate adult behaviors [1, 2]. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the long-term behavioral effects of these early experiences are not fully understood. The C. elegans ascr#3 (asc-ΔC9; C9) pheromone triggers avoidance behavior in adult hermaphrodites [3-7]. Here, we show that hermaphrodites that are briefly exposed to ascr#3 immediately after birth exhibit increased ascr#3-specific avoidance as adults, indicating that ascr#3-experienced animals form a long-lasting memory or imprint of this early ascr#3 exposure . ascr#3 imprinting is mediated by increased synaptic activity between the ascr#3-sensing ADL neurons and their post-synaptic SMB motor neuron partners via increased expression of the odr-2 glycosylated phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-linked signaling gene in the SMB neurons. Our study suggests that the memory for early ascr#3 experience is imprinted via alteration of activity of a single synaptic connection, which in turn shapes experience-dependent plasticity in adult ascr#3 responses.
Keywords: GPI-anchored protein; neuronal activity; pheromone; sensory imprinting; synapse.
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